Bed Bugs-Environmental Health & Safety - Carnegie Mellon University

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Bed Bugs

Ewww.  That's most people's first reaction.  Bed bug infestations have become much more common in the US over the past few years, including here in the Pittsburgh area.  I'd like to offer some information that will help you understand bedbugs, how to prevent problems, and how to react to problems if they occur.   First of all, they are rust-red colored, oval-shaped insects about the size of an apple seed.  Infestations are noted by blood stains and droppings, often noted in mattresses, furniture and baseboards of wall.  They are a nuisance, certainly, but do not spread disease.  They can live 12 months without a "blood meal".

To prevent infestations, carefully inspect items coming into your home, such as furniture, luggage or bedding.  (Bed bugs are often traced to luggage, having got there from travel from infested areas.)  Mattress covers rated for "bed bugs" can prevent infestations there or kill any already there if sealed for more than a year.  Bedbugs cannot survive high heat (over 120o) or extreme cold (below 10o), and they will die in minutes under those conditions.  Clothes and bedding can be laundered with hot water and dried on the highest heat setting to achieve this.  When it is very cold outside, they can be killed by placing the items outdoors.

If you have been bitten, the areas will be very itchy and an anti-itch medication will help.  Watch for infection from any open wounds, though, and treat accordingly.  It is important to note that bed bugs are NOT an indication of poor hygiene or low social circumstances, so please don't apply a stigma to their presence.


By: Mark Banister, markb2@andrew.cmu.edu, 412-268-1493